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Less parking please! (www.jairlynch.com)

The Washington Convention Center is packed full of real estate types today for the Urban Land Institute’s annual wingding. This morning, local wonder boy Jair K. Lynch sat on a panel about prospects for smaller-scale developers, and dropped one of the more interesting remarks of the morning: Jurisdictions that lag behind current trends in personal transportation are putting themselves at a big disadvantage.

“I think there is a dislocation happening between communities, developers, and [local governments], and it’s around parking,” Lynch said. Some cities, however, are making moves to reduce the minimum number of parking spaces required for new developments. “The District has been out in front of that,” Lynch noted. “Because of that, they might come out of the downturn a little faster.”

Of course, developers will always ask for less regulation that limits the amount of profit they can make on a given residential unit. But Lynch has put his finger on a real trend in cities, where a traditional conception of how many cars people need has created more parking in residential buildings than is really necessary (although neighborhoods, of course, still complain about the lack of street parking). Chris Donatelli found this out when he built the first phase of the Highland Park a few years ago: He built 1.5 spaces per occupant, but later figured the right number was around half a space.

“We just didn’t fully appreciate the power of being on top of the Metro, and the reliance the residents would have on Metro…and their willingness to abandon cars altogether,” he told the Zoning Commission, in seeking permission to build less parking for the second phase of the project.

Instead of requiring residents to pay more for apartment buildings with parking spaces, let them choose to live in buildings that don’t have them. That way, more things get built.